AUSTIN, Texas — Online processes were invaluable to FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, helping expedite hundreds of thousands of requests for assistance. But sometimes there’s no substitute for meeting someone face to face.
When Cindy Halliday’s online application ran into complications, her heart fell. She had just watched 3 feet of water accumulate in her Wharton, Texas, home, and she needed help getting her household back in shape.
Halliday did the smart thing: She went to the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Wharton and spoke with FEMA representatives in her area. They figured out her online account was frozen because her daughter-in-law had filed an application for the same address. The staff went the extra mile to understand, explain and resolve Halliday’s issues, she said.
Halliday added that she could not have asked for a better group of people at the DRC, and the staff soon became like family to her.
“I would not have made it through this devastating time without their support and encouragement all along the way,” Halliday said.
Online applications sometimes stall because of reasons that can be corrected easily, the staff explained. For example, issues may arise if FEMA is unable to contact the applicant or if a document is missing, such as an insurance determination letter, proof of identification or proof of occupancy or ownership.
Properties are ineligible for assistance if the affected home is safe to live in, if insurance covers all the losses or if it is a rental or secondary home.
With the DRC staff’s help, Halliday’s family received a FEMA travel trailer to live in temporarily while they waited for a contractor to make their home livable again. In the meantime about 100 volunteers, whom Halliday called “angels,” showed up at her property to muck out her damaged home and pile up debris.
If you’ve encountered eligibility issues, find out why. Follow Halliday’s lead and visit a DRC or call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. Find your nearest DRC online at www.fema.gov/DRC.